Love Potions: Exploring the Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Aphrodisiacs


Happy Valentine’s Day! Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a perfect love potion-one drop and things get hot? Well, one might not quite exist but in celebration of this day of love,  we explore the next best thing-aphrodisiacs from around the world—the good, the bad and the ugly!

The Good

Peruvian Ginseng (Maca)

Maca, known as Peruvian Viagra, is grown in the Andes Mountains. Small studies reveal that maca may help with erectile dysfunction. In women, maca may help with sexual function, treatment of menopausal symptoms and fertility.  Maca comes as a flour or powder and can be used in a number of delicious drinks, desserts and other recipes.


Ginseng , a root grown in Asia, has been shown in studies to improve erectile dysfunction in men, as well as sexual stamina. The Asian ginseng (red ginseng or Korean) is the type associated with aphrodisiac effects. It can have some side effects when taken with certain blood pressure and heart medicines and can effect blood sugar so use caution when taking, especially if you have heart disease, hypertension or diabetes.   You can buy it as a tea, pills or use it in popular recipes.


Saffron, grown in Greece and Southwest Asia, also has been shown to help with sexual arousal, especially  in people on the anti-depressant Prozac. It also happens to be delicious when used in a number of dishes, such as rice and paella.   Although saffron is known as the world’s most expensive spice by weight, fortunately you don’t need large amounts for its fantastic taste.


Photo Credit

 Qwert1234 (Qwert1234′s file) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

Horny Goat Weed has got to be the best name for any aphrodisiac known.  Also known as epimedium and barrenwort, horny goat weed is a Chinese natural medicine long used for its energizing and sexual enhancing effects.  Its main active ingredient, Icariin, works in a similar mechanism to the drug Viagra.  It can interact with certain heart, blood pressure and blood thinner medicines so exercise caution and talk to your doctor before using.  It is grown as a plant in many gardens, particularly in Japan,  but can be bought in health food stores as a pill.


Oysters may taste good but probably don’t have many aphrodisiac advantages if you already have a well-balanced diet.They are rich in zinc, which is good for sperm motility. Oysters got their reputation as an aphrodisiac because of their resemblance to female reproductive organs and for being associated with Aphrodite. Apparently Cassanova, the famed 18th  century lover, ate 50 oysters a day for breakfast. Although it’s raw oysters that supposedly have the best reputation for love, if you want them cooked, here’s a recipe with saffron to try.

The Bad

Yohimbine is from the bark of a West African tree. It actually has been shown to improve erectile dysfunction is some studies but the evidence is conflicting.  Most scientists believe that the amounts needed to actually cause any significant aphrodisiac effects are actually close to lethal, so it’s best not to use it.

The Ugly

4078440131_179919a4c9Photo Credit

Rhino Horn has not been shown to have any benefits and has led to unlawful poaching and decimation of rhino populations throughout much of the world. It is made of keratin-the same stuff that makes up our hair and nails.  Steer clear of this and don’t support its use in any way.

Blister_Beetle (1)”Photo

Spanish Fly is actually just another name for the dried ground up remains of the blister beetle (yuck!)  Its active ingredient is a substance called cantharidin.  Its only positive benefit as a love potion is if you are a beetle and are trying to attract another member of your species for a one night stand. In humans it doesn’t work and can actually cause severe stomach upset, kidney failure and death.  Apparently the Marquis de Sade gave women chocolate laced with Spanish fly and almost killed them. So avoid this one at all costs.




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